Published: Wed, May 17, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Iran's reformist ex-president Khatami says re-elect Rouhani

Rouhani, a mid-ranking Muslim cleric and longtime establishment figure, was elected in 2013 by a 51 percent margin on promises of detente with major powers and an end to house arrests of opposition leaders.

In 2016, he released a video that played a crucial role in helping pro-Rouhani candidates to defeat ultra-conservatives in parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections. Unsurprisingly, during the presidential campaigns, Iran's anti-Rouhani camp has taken to populism to work its way into the hearts and minds of the Iranian electorate, dismissing Mr. Rouhani's technocratic administration, led by the US -educated Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, as being pro-western and anti-revolutionary. Qalibaf's dropping out may serve to get him more votes in his challenge to Rouhani.

"Iran's political right has been scrambling to field a single candidate that could push back against" Rouhani's coalition of technocrats, pragmatists, and reformers, Taleblu said.

Rouhani faces five other - mostly conservative - challengers during Friday's presidential race, and particularly strong competition from cleric and judge Ebrahim Raisi who has the backing of hardliners in the regime.

Raisi has agreed to stick by the nuclear accord but says Rouhani put too much trust in the West. Next week, Trump will go on his first overseas trip, starting in Saudi Arabia and Israel, Iran's most formidable regional rivals, signaling what is hoped will be the formation of an American-backed, anti-Iran regional coalition.

His close association with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would attract the support of conservatives across Iran.

The reformist candidate has dropped out of Iran's presidential election and thrown his support behind President Hassan Rouhani, in a widely expected move that will strengthen the incumbent's campaign against a hard-liner.

Several analysts have predicted Rouhani will win the May 19 election, however, a recent poll shows the Iranian electorate believes he will lose.

Iran's relations with the USA, which improved under Rouhani and led to the nuclear deal and the lifting of some sanctions, have also hung over the campaigning.

Having now called on conservative voters to unite behind Raisi, Qalibaf could conceivably upset forecasts that Rouhani was on course for a comfortable victory.

Raisi has appealed to poorer voters by pledging to create millions of jobs.

Moreover, Reformist activist Hamid Reza Jalaeipour believes that some of Ghalibaf's votes will be transferred to Rouhani as some sections of the middle class were in favor of the Tehran mayor, while Raisi is not welcome among the middle class.

Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi further touched upon the unemployment issue in the country and implicitly accused Rouhani's government of failing to address the country's economic problems. A majority of Iranians express a favorable view of Rouhani (62 percent) and Ghalibaf (67 percent), while only a third of Iranians view Raisi favorably (32 percent), with 46 percent saying they don't know him.

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